05 Apr GS 2004 art 109
GS 2004 Article 109 – Appeal of br. and sr. Vantil against Regional Synod West 2003 re: Grape Juice
Committee 3 again presented its proposal on the appeal of br. and sr. Vantil against Regional Synod West 2003 re: Grape Juice. After several rounds of discussion, the following was adopted:
Appeal of br. and sr. M. Vantil against Art. 4 of the Acts of Regional Synod West 2003
The appeal of br. and sr. Vantil is admissible since it is an appeal against Regional Synod West, November 18, 2003.
- 3.1. In February 1998 the council of the church at Aldergrove decided to suggest to the congregation that it is, in principle, compelled to abolish alcohol from the communion table because of pastoral concerns regarding a brother’s addiction.
- 3.2. On March 27, 2000, br. and sr. Vantil questioned why the council changed to grape juice when the Lord has instituted wine. The council answered that the word “wine” can refer to fermented and unfermented grape juice. The Bible speaks of “the fruit of the vine.”
- 3.3. In the letter of October 22, 2001, br. and sr. VanTil indicate that they appeal the decision of council, also in light of Art. 70 of Synod Neerlandia 2001. The council replied that Synod 2001 makes no judgment with regard to the fact that grape juice is an acceptable substitute for wine (cf. a letter from the council dated November 26, 2001).
- 3.4. Br. and sr. Vantil appealed this to Classis Pacific East of August 17, 2002. Classis agreed with their appeal and considered that although Synod Neerlandia 2001 did not make a judgment to the effect that grape juice is an unacceptable substitute, it did clearly state that wine is the norm. Classis also considered that it is up to the consistory to find a suitable solution for those members who cannot have wine.
- 3.5. The council of the church at Aldergrove appealed this decision to Regional Synod West 2003. Regional Synod judged that the church at Aldergrove was wronged by Classis Pacific East in its decision that wine should be made available at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper “without regard for local circumstances.” While maintaining that wine is the “norm,” the use of grape juice as an exception – should circumstances warrant it – is a matter that belongs to the jurisdiction of the local consistory of the church at Aldergrove.
- 3.6. Regional Synod considered that Classis Pacific East did not address the real issue at stake in this appeal. According to Regional Synod the issue is: does the church at Aldergrove’s practice of using grape juice only conflict with the decision of General Synod 2001? According to Regional Synod the word “norm” is not used by General Synod 2001 in an absolute sense, thus leaving room for exceptions. Only the local consistory can determine what qualifies as an exception.
- 3.7. Br. and sr. Vantil appeal this decision of Regional Synod West 2003. They request General Synod to make the following determinations:
- 3.7.1.Regional Synod West on November 18, 2003 should not have dealt with Aldergrove’s appeal, since Aldergrove presented new information that was not previously available to either the original appellants or to Classis. Under article 30 of the Church Order Regional Synod West should have declared Aldergrove’s appeal inadmissible, as a major assembly shall deal with those matters only which could not be finished in the minor assembly.
- 3.7.2.By making only grape juice available, Aldergrove consistory has made grape juice the norm rather than the exception.
- 3.7.3.Aldergrove consistory should uphold Article 35 of the Belgic Confession and the decisions of Synod Neerlandia, and make wine available at its Lord’s Supper celebrations.
- 3.7.4.Some individuals may require special treatment, and can be given grape juice instead of wine, but only where their problems cannot be resolved in any other way.
- 4.1. It is true that the council of the church at Aldergrove submitted new information to Regional Synod West 2003. This information pertained to the special circumstances which led to the consistory’s decision to abolish alcohol from the communion table. However, this new information did not influence the judgment of Regional Synod West 2003 because it refrained from determining what qualifies special circumstances. This was left to the jurisdiction of the local consistory.
- 4.2. Synod Neerlandia judged that “the clear and consistent language of our confessions” indicate “that the norm is to use wine at the Lord’s Supper” (Acts, Art. 70). This judgment by Synod Neerlandia shows that it used the word “norm” in connection with the confessions. Since the confessions are normative in the churches, Synod considers that wine should be used at the Lord’s Supper. “Wine makes an important contribution to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. This alcoholic drink, therefore, should be maintained in the celebration of this sacrament.” (Dr. N.H. Gootjes, “The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper” in Koinonia, vol.xiv, 1993 no. 1, p. 33. See also Dr. N.H. Gootjes “The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper” in Clarion, Vol. 41, nos. 5-10.) This does not exclude the possibility of making an exception. Allowing for an exception demonstrates Christian love and compassion for those with difficulties.
- 4.3. Regional Synod West 2003 erred in judging that Classis Pacific East wronged the church at Aldergrove. Synod agrees with the appellants that the consistory of the church at Aldergrove should make wine available at its Lord’s Supper celebration.
- 4.4. Regional Synod West 2003 was correct in its judgment that it belongs to the local consistory to determine what constitutes an individual exception.
- 5.1. To deny the first request of the appellants (Observation 3.7.1 above), since Regional Synod West 2003 was not wrong in dealing with the appeal of the church at Aldergrove.
- 5.2. To grant the second, third and fourth requests of the appellants (Observations 3.7.2-3.7.4 above), since Regional Synod West 2003 erred in its judgment that Classis Pacific East wronged the church at Aldergrove.